I am able to type and post this freely because of the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of men and women who didn’t simply die but willingly put themselves in harm’s way for me, my family and 300 million present-day Americans, as well as every American who was blessed to live in this country since its founding. Saying ‘thank you’ is wholly inadequate but is all I can offer here.
Yes, today we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice — their lives. I ask that we remember some others, as well. My wife is a nursing supervisor at our local VA Medical Center. I’ve lost count of the days she has come home heartbroken over the number of veterans who are coming back home from recent wars as alcoholics, drug addicts or so mentally scarred that they struggle to deal with every day life.
Yes, today we honor those who sacrificed their lives. But to the families of these young men and women who returned from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan they, too, have experienced the loss of their loved ones. While the deaths may not be physical deaths, they lost the loved one they knew before they were sent off to war. The same person did not return. That soldier left the person they were on the battlefield and someone else returned in that soldier’s place. Too often that returning soldier is unrecognizable to their families and friends.
As a country, we war too much. Throughout its history, the United States has been at war more than it has been at peace. I am no pacifist. Sadly, in a fallen world, war can be a necessary last resort. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we have become too thirsty for it. The fervor in the run-up to war runs hot and becomes an emotional reaction just as any other we should temper with cooling discourse and measured response.
Better still, we should ask ourselves if we have the stamina to truly take care of those we put in harm’s way for the rest of their lives. The true cost of war isn’t measured in dollars. A dollar can be regenerated. A unique life cannot. War is properly measured in lives — those lost and those compromised. The great shame of our nation is a single veteran not getting the medical care, help, or support of any kind that he or she needs. They deserve a blank check, just like the one they gave us when they became soldiers.
In Ecclesiastes 3 we learn that there is a ‘time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.’ Perhaps it’s time we start gathering.